Bahrain’s Main Opposition Blocks Reforms

While Bahrain’s protestations about the malintent of its main opposition group Al Wefaq National Islamic Society have rarely been taken seriously, independent western observers have finally declared, after a visit to the Kingdom and firsthand observation, that the opposition groups, notably Al Wefaq, have been hindering reforms which the government has been sincerely calling for.

This was categorically stated by an academic among a five-member European delegation visiting Bahrain last month of which four were members of the European Parliament. During its visit, the team learned that Al Wefaq was not only refusing to engage with the official bodies set up following the release in 2012 of the report submitted by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry into the troubles in February 2011, it had summarily dismissed them as dysfunctional without ever having approached them with any grievance or suggestion.

For the record, at another level Al Wefaq had also walked out of the ongoing talks with the government a couple of years ago after repeatedly raising frivolous objections when it was also revealed that its opposition participants were being tutored by the American ambassador; evidently they were afraid the talks might succeed!

Dr Mitchell Belfer, head of Prague’s Metropolitan University Department of International Relations and European Studies and a member of the delegation, did not mince words. HDr Mitchell Belfere said that during his team’s meetings with the Interior Ministry Ombudsman [yes, Bahrain has this very western institution of Ombudsman] as well as with the Minister of Justice it had become clear that Al Wefaq “had not submitted a single complaint to any of the systems introduced as part of the reforms process in Bahrain. This includes the National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman which the opposition say are dysfunctional.”

He expressed surprise that the opposition was calling a system which they had never tried “dysfunctional.”

“I think this sums up Al Wefaq and much of the opposition in a nutshell … They complain about a system that they don’t even give a chance to work and they want to reject it before they want to see it work. They are promoting the failure of the system before they are even attempting to gauge its success.” – Dr Mitchell Belfer


In any case, Al Wefaq had long ago shown its resolve not to work within the system when its MPs resigned from Parliament en masse. The party then refused to take part in the parliamentary elections that followed.

But were the opposition groups really looking for a peaceful alternative? Not really.

The moves were patently to unshackle themselves from any responsibility toward the state. They also indulged in anti-state tirades, inflammatory speeches, attacks on police, demonstrations, violence, terror and disruption of civic life with funds, arms and moral support coming from Iran. This has become clear after recent revelations by the Interior Minister.

What further substantiates this conclusion is that while Iranian backing for these groups remains a cause for concern, it turns out that Al Wefaq is not averse to getting aid for its nefarious designs from anywhere. Earlier this week there were Press reports stating the group had received nearly US$100,000 from a party in Qatar between 2010 and 2015, to be used to finance terrorism.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.